A half-dozen cool things in music, from two points of view:

Guided by Voices at Rock the Garden. These guys never disappoint, and it should be great to see them play to a huge crowd outside Walker Art Center on June 22.

Hurray for the Riff Raff, "Small Town Heroes." I discovered this band after they played the 7th St. Entry in October. This album has been in my daily rotation since it came out in February.

Jason Isbell and St. Paul & the Broken Bones at Vetter Stone Amphitheater on July 30. The last Isbell show at First Avenue was amazing, and I'm really looking forward to checking out the show as well as this great Mankato venue.

Nate Kranz, general manager, First Avenue, Mpls.

to contribute: popmusic@startribune.com

Rolling Stone magazine's "country issue." Along with meaty profiles of Miranda Lambert and Eric Church, there are tips on writing country songs, a look at new "hat" acts and a list of the 100 greatest country songs. A nice balance of depth and fun.

Steve Earle, Minnesota Zoo. His splendid two-hour performance featured various styles of American music, good humor, good spirit and, uncharacteristically, no political rants.

Cyndi Lauper, Target Center. Like headliner Cher, she chatted a lot, wore a big wig and showcased a big voice. And she made references to the Wild, Prince, the Time and First Avenue.

Jon Bream, Star Tribune